Keeping Idaho IDAHO
The Constitution of the United States proclaims “all” federal property in a state must be “purchased” from the state “by the Consent of the Legislature of the State.” The Constitution of the State of Idaho declares: “All property and institutions of the territory [of Idaho] shall, upon the adoption of the constitution, become the property and institutions of the state of Idaho.” The US Congress accepted Idaho’s constitution when it dutifully admitted the state into the union on July 3, 1890.
These constitutional promises were never met. Now the federal government claims it owns sixty-two percent of the state of Idaho, and even a higher percentage of its mineral rights. As people pour into the state searching for more freedom, liberty, and peace that this state has always stood for, is it too late or too wrong to constitutionally seek legislative or judicial solutions for the future prosperity of Idaho, as Ammon Bundy promises to do when elected governor? The answer to this question is found in both the distant and recent past.
Soon after the nation’s founding, the General Land Office of the federal government provided essential services for the settling of the territories as they evolved into states. According to the Constitution, the federal government’s job was to help the embryonic states get through their growing pains, and then set the child free. It was never meant to be a “helicopter parent” forever.
Over the course of the twentieth century, however, the “GLO” morphed into the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, and other well-meaning environmental agencies. But for Idaho and other western states, it’s as if these federal agencies quietly assumed “squatter’s rights,” wherein a squatter, if they make improvements upon the land for a certain period of time, claims a permanent right to that land. Of course, no such right exists for a federal agency.
The federal government has continued, nevertheless, to come up with reasons to stay put. Today, the BLM’s and federal government’s warm and fuzzy ploy for owning and controlling state land is that environmental crises call for what they term “an all of government approach” – towns and cities, counties, regions, and states – with the federal government, of course, leading out with its own laws, regulations, and especially its seductive and captivating grant programs.
I became familiar with this approach in 1969 as a junior at South Tahoe High School. This was the year Congress created the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The TRPA, as we called it, was the pioneer, and is still one of the leading practitioners, of the “all of government approach.” Years later, as the Water Operations Manager for the South Tahoe Public Utility, working at the very center of all the environmental issues, I witnessed the unfolding drama unleashed by the TRPA.
The agency combined local, county, state, and federal governments into a regional environmental agency. Fifty-three years later the “all of government approach” has done some to “Save the Lake;” but much more to suffocate my hometown and other communities throughout the Tahoe Basin with its ordinances, regulations, fees, and fines. In the end we could not “Keep Tahoe TAHOE” for its ordinary citizens, and they have moved out in droves. They have been replaced by a growing corporate and international presence and the second, third, or fourth homes of the wealthy.
Today, the insatiable federal appetite for expansion of its power and authority is widely known. But there was never much room for a true “all” within the “all of government approach.” In my experience the federal government wants to be in the center of nearly everything. It wants the final word. But the “all of government approach” is too handy and devious a solution to save the environment and protect democracy at the same time. How telling is it that eighty-seven per cent of BLM employees based in Washington DC quit the Bureau rather than relocate to the BLM’s new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado three years ago? What does this say about its fidelity to its constituents, such as farmers and ranchers?
Even now, three movements, with federal support, are coalescing into one that goes by the acronym ESG, standing for “Environmental-Social-Governance.” This framework supposedly measures the sustainability and ethical impact of investment in a business or company, but it is wildly susceptible to subjective judgment, ideological preferences, and political skewing. It is an “all of government approach” for sure. And we are being blithely assured ESG will not negatively affect our personal lives or credit rating.
Why can’t the state of Idaho take on the task of protecting its own environment, profiting from the wise use of its resources, and relieve the overburdened federal government to attend to its enumerated powers as outlined in the US Constitution? The phenomenon of increasing growth and power have not only constitutional but significant cultural implications as well. Ammon Bundy’s slogan “Keep Idaho IDAHO” has a second meaning – maintaining its unique identity as it resides in the hearts and minds of native and newborn Idahoans.
Where we live is a key part of a person and community’s identity, and perhaps more so for rural citizens. Their way of living is directly tied to the land. It is not mobile, as is the urban and suburban life, but it can be honored far more than it currently is by those who live in the cities of Idaho.
A state’s identity is the glue that binds us. Maintaining, as well as enhancing, Idaho‘s unique character, values, and traditions, as well as its environment, is OUR task. For well over half a century the state of Idaho has had all the talent and educational systems it needs to manage its lands and service its people – focused on the best of science, technology, agriculture, and all the advantageous industries that are developed by its citizens and make Idaho IDAHO – without federal handholding, yet linked closely with it and the federated states of our country as set forth in the US Constitution and Tenth Amendment “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility… and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”?
Ammon Bundy is correct. This “can do” state will prosper economically and culturally by controlling all its land. In today’s world, Idaho can be more capable, creative, and nimble than the federal government in meeting the needs of the state and thereby our nation as well.
Go to VoteBundy.com to learn more about the need to “Keep Idaho IDAHO.”
This Op-Ed was submitted by Rick Hydrick. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.
Tags: Ammon Bundy, BLM, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Federal Lands, Idaho Constitution, US Constitution